Waugh, Evelyn (Vol. 107)
Evelyn Waugh 1903–1966
(Full name Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh) English novelist, short story writer, critic, essayist, travel writer, biographer, journalist, and poet.
The following entry provides an overview of Waugh's career through 1995. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 1, 3, 8, 13, 19, 27, and 44.
Waugh has been called one of the greatest prose stylists in twentieth-century literature for his satirical writings on the foibles of modern society. In such works as A Handful of Dust (1934), Brideshead Revisited (1945), and The Loved One (1948), Waugh's graceful use of minimalist language coupled with his acidic exposure of hypocrisy and superficiality among England's upper classes have led many critics to classify him alongside modern literature's preeminent men of letters.
Waugh was born in London in 1903. His father, Arthur Waugh, was a prominent editor and publisher at Chapman-Hall, while his older brother Alec was a novelist and travel writer. Waugh initially resisted his family's literary leanings, concentrating on art and design at Hertford College, Oxford. The period at Oxford was turbulent for Waugh. He entrenched himself in the group he later sharply satirized in his writings as the "Bright Young Things," drank excessively, and experimented with homosexuality, which he unequivocally renounced years later. Waugh was forced to leave Oxford in 1924 because of poor grades. He went on to study for a brief period at Heatherley's Art School, where he first became acquainted with the design principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, and later was drawn to the modernist movements Vorticism and Futurism. He left the school a year later and became a teacher, but was fired from all three of his posts. At that point Waugh reluctantly turned to writing as a career, working as a journalist for the London Daily Express and producing his first novel, Decline and Fall, in 1928. The book was well-received, but due to its scathing satire, Waugh's publisher insisted that he remove certain scenes and add a note of disclaimer as a preface. Also in 1928, Waugh married Evelyn Gardner; two years later the marriage dissolved in divorce, an event which, along with his overall disillusionment with modern society, many critics and biographers believe led to Waugh's conversion to and staunch defense of Roman Catholicism. In 1936, his marriage to Gardner was annulled, and he subsequently married Laura Herbert in 1937. During World War II, Waugh had a successful military stint, rising to the rank of major in the Royal Marines. By this time Waugh had earned a place among the foremost literati of England, having published some of his most important and respected novels, essays, short stories, and criticism. He traveled extensively, often as a correspondent, and his experiences around the world frequently turn up in his work. Waugh continued, however, to become more deeply disgusted by what he considered the widespread loss of honor, integrity, and traditional mores, particularly during and after World War II. Perhaps because of his increasing sense of alienation and nostalgia for what he thought of as a more moral past, Waugh created for himself a public persona of haughty reserve and conservatism and guarded his personal life fiercely. Little is known, for example, of the circumstances surrounding the nervous breakdown he suffered in the 1950s, aside from his fictionalized account of that period of his life in his novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957). Shortly before his death, Waugh published the first part of a projected multi-volume autobiography, A Little Learning. He died, leaving the work unfinished, in 1966.
Waugh's body of work is marked by two predominant themes: satire of the vulgarity of modern society and, after his conversion, the redemptive promise of traditional Catholicism. In Decline and Fall, the narrator, Paul Pennyfeather, is a hapless naif recently dismissed from Oxford University and mercilessly victimized by the scoundrels he encounters. In his second novel, Vile Bodies (1930), Waugh again found inspiration in his own university experience. Containing Waugh's famous satirical treatment of the "Bright Young Things" from his days at Oxford, Vile Bodies is the story of Adam Symes, an innocent who unwittingly commits detestable crimes in an unstable and amoral world, and Waugh emphasized the feeling of instability by providing little coherence to the plot or scene structure. In his third novel, Black Mischief (1932), Waugh took on imperialism and the veiled savagery of Western culture. In an attempt to bring his country into the twentieth century, the Emperor Seth of Azania—a fictional African nation—enlists the help of the Englishman Basil Seal, whose directives for civilizing the country result in tragedy for its citizens. A Handful of Dust (1934) was the first novel into which Waugh incorporated Catholic themes, as well as his first departure from his earlier farcical style of satire. Based largely on the failure of his own marriage, the novel follows the collapse of the marriage of the upper-class English couple Tony and Brenda Last as they seek refuge from the cruelties and absurdities of their social rank. While Brenda has an affair with the crass and shallow John Beaver, becoming increasingly emotionally detached as she is absorbed into the cocktail society of London, Tony clings to what he considers the more genteel world of pre-twentieth-century England, engaging in a futile restoration of his outdated ancestral home. Searching for meaning in his life, Tony embarks on a South American expedition, where he is stranded indefinitely with an elderly madman who forces him to read aloud the works of the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. While many critics consider A Handful of Dust to be one of Waugh's most relentlessly grim satires, they nonetheless point out that Tony and Brenda's search for shelter in an unkind world, though deeply misguided, is symbolic of the retreat Waugh believed he had found in Catholicism. After A Handful of Dust, Waugh published Scoop (1938)—a satire on journalists—and Put Out More Flags (1942)—which most critics consider a precursor to his later war trilogy, Sword of Honour. In 1945 Waugh published his most overtly Catholic novel, Brideshead Revisited, which was both his greatest commercial success and his most controversial work. Brideshead Revisited traces events in the lives of a wealthy English Catholic family, the Marchmains, and their involvement with Charles Ryder—a non-Catholic. The family indulges in every conceivable form of decadence but returns to itsfaith in the end. Brideshead Revisited was a departure for Waugh in several ways. In addition to its strong Catholic message, the novel is characterized by a more lush, romantic style of prose, an idealization of nostalgia, and a non-critical tone regarding the lifestyles of aristocratic English families. Despite the popular success it enjoyed, Brideshead Revisited was excoriated by many critics, who found its romanticized depiction of upper-class life and nostalgia for a past "golden age" an unwelcome change from the brilliant social commentary of Waugh's earlier works. Waugh returned to satire in 1948 with The Loved One, which is often cited as one of his best, and bitterest, critiques of modern life. In The Loved One Waugh parodied Hollywood in the 1940s, in particular the English expatriates who set up "colonies" there seeking fortunes and the American ideal of success. Much of the novel takes place in the hyper-sanitized arena of the Whispering Glades cemetery and its counterpart, the animal cemetery Happier Hunting Grounds, and concerns the doomed relationship between Dennis Barlow, described as a "poet and pet mortician," and Aimee Thanatogenos, hostess of the cemetery and an embalming intern. While Aimee is in search of spiritual truth and genuine cultural enrichment, Dennis uses his poetry to win women and advance socially. As Dennis introduces her to the English poets, Aimee becomes increasingly disenchanted, and finally commits suicide on an embalming table as a result of her inability to reconcile her American notions of good citizenship and ethics with her deep sense of alienation. Generally considered Waugh's most successful black comedy, The Loved One has been called dystopic in tone, and has even been compared to science fiction. The year before his death, Waugh published his war trilogy, Sword of Honour (1965), as a single volume for the first time. Comprising Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (also published as The End of the Battle; 1961), Sword of Honour tells the story of Guy Crouchback, who is considered Waugh's only real hero, as he enters World War II a romantic idealist and ends up a bleak pessimist at the war's conclusion. A decent man seeking decency in the world, Guy concludes that only personal good works can provide spiritual comfort and communion amid a secular wasteland.
Waugh's importance to modern English literature owes much to his style and craftsmanship. Earlier works were characterized by clever phrasing and broadly humorous plots, but in later works he translated his observations into complex ironic structures, unifying content with form. Some critics contend that Waugh's books are timeless because their worlds transcend current history. Others believe his writing will not endure because of his nostalgic preoccupations, the rigidity of his opinions and outlook, and the restricted range of his intellectual and political focus. The assessments of his writing skills are, nevertheless, virtually uniform in their recognition of his comic inventiveness, his highly individualistic style, his devotion to clarity and precision, and his ability to entertain. Edmund Wilson wrote of Waugh's novels: "[They are] the only things written in England that are comparable to Fitzgerald and Hemingway. They are not so poetic; they are perhaps less intense; they belong to a more classical tradition. But I think that they are likely to last and that Waugh, in fact, is likely to figure as the only first-rate comic genius that has appeared in England since Bernard Shaw."
The World to Come (poetry) 1916
Decline and Fall (novel) 1928
Vile Bodies (novel) 1930
Black Mischief (novel) 1932
A Handful of Dust (novel) 1934
Edmund Campion: Scholar, Priest, Hero, and Martyr (biography) 1935
Mr. Loveday's Little Outing and Other Sad Stories (short stories) 1936; expanded edition published as Charles Ryder's Schooldays and Other Stories, 1982
Scoop (novel) 1938; published in England as Scoop: A Novel about Journalists, 1938
Mexico: An Object Lesson (travel essay) 1939; published in England as Robbery under Law: The Mexican Object Lesson, 1939
Put Out More Flags (novel) 1942
Work Suspended: Two Chapters of an Unfinished Novel (unfinished novel) 1942; expanded edition published as Work Suspended and Other Stories Written before the Second World War, 1949
Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (novel) 1945
Scott-King's Modern Europe (novel) 1947
The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (novel) 1948
Helena (novel) 1950
Men at Arms (novel) 1952
Love among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future (novel) 1953
Officers and Gentlemen (novel) 1955
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold: A Conversation Piece (novel) 1957
Tourist in Africa (travel essay)...
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SOURCE: "O Bright Young People!," in The Nation, Vol. 130, No. 3385, May 21, 1930, p. 602.
[Fitts was an American poet, critic, and translator. In the following review, he calls Waugh's novel Vile Bodies a "failure," noting that the use of satire is heavy-handed and derivative.]
[Vile Bodies] is the kind of book that assures you, in a desperate sort of way, that it is funny. It is modeled, pretty consciously, upon the early Aldous Huxley—the Huxley, that is to say, of Crome Yellow and, more noticeably, Antic Hay; not the sad Huxley of the moment, whose touch has become so oppressive since he borrowed Mr. Wells's ouija board and achieved intimacy with God. Mr. Waugh, too, has heard the thunder on the usual Sinai: Vile Bodies has predicatory implications, the same hangover tone that spoiled Point Counter Point, but Mr. Waugh has little of Huxley's wit and none of his substance. While it was possible to forgive the latter's taking himself so seriously by reflecting that after all he had created something to be serious about, it is difficult to excuse Mr. Waugh for wrenching good slapstick into tragicomedy.
As satire the book is no less a failure. First of all, Mr. Waugh displays none of the élan that distinguishes the true satirist from the caricaturist. For all its brilliance the writing lacks vitality. The invention is tired, and...
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SOURCE: "Mr. Waugh's Humor," in The Nation, Vol. 135, No. 3510, October 12, 1932, p. 335.
[Cantwell was an American editor and fiction writer. In the following review, he objects to Waugh's light treatment of imperialism in Black Mischief.]
Like Hindoo Holiday, published a few months ago with considerable success, Black Mischief is a study of some of the more droll results of European imperialism. Hindoo Holiday revolved around the activities of an engaging, homo-sexual Indian ruler, and the humor had its source in his misuse of the English language and in his baffled attempts to understand European history and customs. The appeal of Black Mischief is on a somewhat higher level, for Waugh has more respect for factual reality, and his sense of humor is a little grim: there are various picturesque assassinations in the course of the story, and the climax comes when the hero sits in on a cannibal feast and eats his sweetheart. The central figure of Black Mischief is Seth, a Negro educated at Oxford and determined to bring progress to his native state of Azania whether his subjects want it or not. He is aided by an up-to-date soldier of fortune named Basil Seal, who tries to put through a One-Year Plan of modernization and improvement. And instead of pederasty and mispronunciation, which created the funny scenes in Hindoo Holiday, the humor revolves around...
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SOURCE: "Mr. Waugh's Cities," in Encounter, Vol. XV, No. 5, November 1960, pp. 63-66, 68-70.
[Kermode is an English educator, literary critic, essayist, and editor. In the following essay, he examines Waugh's depiction of religious faith in England after the Reformation, particularly the place of Catholicism among the upper classes in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as represented in Brideshead Revisited.]
It is probably safe to assume that most readers of Brideshead Revisited know and care as much about Papist history and theology as Charles Ryder did before he became intimate with the Flytes; and although the novel contains a fair amount of surprisingly overt instruction we are much more likely to allow our reading of it to be corrupted by ignorance than by an excessively curious attention to matters of doctrine. In fact this is true of Mr. Waugh's fiction as a whole; and one of the rewards of curiosity is a clearer notion of the differences, as well as of the similarities, between his most successful books.
At the end of Decline and Fall (1928), Paul Pennyfeather, back at Scone after his sufferings on Egdon Heath, notes with approval the condemnation of a second-century Bithynian bishop who had denied the divinity of Christ and the validity of the sacrament of Extreme Unction; a singularly dangerous heretic. A few moments later, however, he turns his...
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SOURCE: "Romantic and Realistic: The Tone of Evelyn Waugh's Early Novels," in College English, Vol. 24, No. 1, October 1962, pp. 46-56.
[In the following essay, Nichols discusses Waugh's use of satire in his early novels, focusing on what he considers Waugh's often contradictory ideals of romanticism and realism.]
Evelyn Waugh has been asked, "Are your books meant to be satirical?" He replied, "No. Satire is a matter of period. It flourishes in a stable society and presupposes homogeneous moral standards—the early Roman Empire and 18th Century Europe. It is aimed at inconsistency and hypocrisy. It exposes polite cruelty and folly by exaggerating them. It seeks to produce shame. All this has no place in the Century of the Common Man where vice no longer pays lip service to virtue" ["Fan-Fare," Life, April 8, 1946].
The article from which the quotation is taken appeared in Life in 1946, not long after the publication of Brideshead Revisited, the first of Waugh's novels to win him a wide transatlantic public. The tone of the article suggests that he was not entirely serious. A "satire," as far as the novel is concerned, is a novel so constructed and so written as to embody a point of view which adversely criticizes the manners and morals of its characters—and often the society to which they belong, as well. Even a casual reading will make plain that most of...
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SOURCE: "Waugh and Black Humor," in Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 2, Autumn 1968, pp. 1-3.
[Dooley is a Canadian writer and educator. In the following essay, Dooley examines instances of black humor in Waugh's writing and suggests possible influences to Waugh's comic sensibility.]
In an article in the Kenyon Review in 1961, C. P. Snow referred to the transmission of a particular vein of personal and capricious comedy from Russian to English fiction as one of the clearest examples of literary ancestry which he knew. He described the agent of transmission, William Gerhardi, as the chief progenitor of modern English prose comedy, and said that he had a very sharp effect on such talented young men of the Twenties as Waugh and Anthony Powell. But as the Waugh Newsletter pointed out, Saki and Firbank could not be overlooked as comic models. Similarly, when he ridiculed the whole notion of influences in a sentence quoted by Stopp, Waugh provided us with more names to conjure with: "A lecturer in English literature might discern two sources of Dr. Wodehouse's art—the light romance of Ian Hay and the social satire of 'Saki,' but the attribution is quite irrelevant in the world of the imagination." Still another influence on him, almost undoubtedly, is Maurice Baring—another interpreter of Russia to England and writer of comedies both English and Ruritanian. Another who ought not to be...
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SOURCE: "The Ordeal of Evelyn Waugh," in The Vision Obscured: Perceptions of Some Twentieth-Century Catholic Novelists, edited by Melvin J. Friedman, New York: Fordham University Press, 1970, pp. 79-93.
[Ulanov is an American writer, educator, and editor. In the following essay, he analyzes the "underlying structure" of the world-view that infused Waugh's novels and gave meaning to his allegorical writings.]
It is all but a fixed convention in the critical presentation of the work of Evelyn Waugh to date his decline, in mid-career, with the appearance of Brideshead Revisited in 1945. The novels written before it are comic masterpieces. Those that come after, with the possible exception of The Loved One (1948), are blighted by the disease of Brideshead, an egregious inclination to take religion seriously, accompanied by a marked distaste for the world that does not share that inclination—the modern world.
Waugh was immediately taken to task, on the appearance of Brideshead Revisited, for his shocking display of religious sentiment and his apparent loss of the satiric spirit. He answered his American critics as publicly as he could in the pages of a journal not generally thought of as literary—Life magazine. Modern novelists, Waugh explained,
try to represent the whole human mind and soul and yet omit its determining...
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SOURCE: "What the Whispering Glades Whispered: Dennis Barlow's Quest in The Loved One," in English Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2, April 1979, pp. 176-82.
[Barnard is an English writer and educator. In the following essay, he analyzes Waugh's satirical attack on superficiality and illusion in The Loved One.]
One of the most haunting images one retains of Evelyn Waugh's life, a life rich in incongruities and contrasts, is the author's own account of how, during his brief and abortive visit to Hollywood in 1947, he was driven daily (in the car that was supposed to take him to the studio) to the cemetery called Forest Lawn, and how he spent hour after fascinated hour exploring the mysteries of the place. He had exhausted the possibilities of Hollywood in days, but the appeal of Forest Lawn seemed inexhaustible. This preference is mirrored in The Loved One, both in the career of Dennis Barlow, and in the structure of the novel itself; after a few pages devoted to the great dream factory, the novel takes wing for Whispering Glades and the Happier Hunting Ground, and remains there.
What was the appeal of Forest Lawn to Waugh? Of course to some extent the appeal was that of an incubating story. Waugh himself was very conscious of how limited his experience had been since his marriage, and he welcomed both the war and the hallucinatory experiences that gave him Pinfold precisely...
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SOURCE: "Evelyn Waugh and Humour," in Evelyn Waugh: New Directions, London: Macmillan, 1992, pp. 112-32.
[In the following essay, Blayac explains the classical meaning of "humor," rooted in the theory of the four humors of the human body, and applies it to Waugh's novels.]
Humour, English humour, has always been a subject of interest (and puzzlement) for the French who have always had the utmost difficulties in understanding their neighbours, hence the number of French essays devoted to the analysis and explanation of the concept. Across the Channel, the notion strikes deep roots in the British collective unconscious. Born of the medical 'theory of humours', it still prevailed during the Renaissance. Initiated by Hippocrates, theorised by Galien, it referred to the four fluids of the human body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Physical diseases, as well as mental and moral temperaments, were the result of the relationship of one humour to another. When the humours were in balance, an ideal temperament prevailed, genial or melancholy according to the circumstances. This explains how the word 'humour' came to mean disposition, then mood or characterized peculiarity, like folly or affectation.
In literature, even though Chaucer and Shakespeare had amply drawn upon the subject, it was Ben Jonson who created the 'Comedy of Humours', depicting characters whose behaviour was...
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SOURCE: "Gay Sebastian and Cheerful Charles: Homoeroticism in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited," in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature," Vol. 25, No. 4, October 1994, pp. 77-89.
[Higdon is an American writer and educator. In the following essay, he argues that Brideshead Revisited depicts very deliberate homosexual relationships, contrary to the opinions of other critics, whom Higdon considers deeply in denial.]
There is a highly visible homosexual population in the novels of Evelyn Waugh, ranging from the "smooth young men of uncertain tastes" in Decline and Fall (1928) to the hallucinatory visions and encounters in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957). Ambrose Silk of Put Out More Flags (1942) and Anthony Blanche of Brideshead Revisited (1945) may be the most memorable and certainly are the most flamboyant members of this population. However, there are, in addition, Sir Ralph Brompton, Martin Gaythorne-Brodie (the Honorable Miles Malpractice in the American editions), Captain Edgar Grimes, David Lennox, and Corporal-Major Ludovic—seven men in total, ranging from an Oxford aesthete declaiming The Waste Land from a Christ Church window, through a capable diplomatic adviser, a society photographer, and an author of a bestselling novel to an accused Fascist who ultimately receives the Order of Merit. Much disagreement results, however, when...
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SOURCE: "A Twitch upon the Thread," in New Oxford Review, Vol. 61, No. 9, November 1994, pp. 19-20.
[In the following essay, Hallett examines Charles Ryder's reaction in Brideshead Revisited to the Catholicism of the Flyte family.]
"Is Evelyn Waugh a Catholic novelist?" a friend of mine asked. "I am thinking," he explained, "of Brideshead Revisited. That book has a compelling quality; every few years it draws me back to it. But its mystery escapes me."
In a way my friend is sensing the very mystery that draws the book's narrator, Charles Ryder, to write about the family that lived at Brideshead. Charles, a non-Catholic, is both repulsed and attracted by the mysterious force that unites and directs the seemingly disparate members of the Flyte family. Part of the attraction of the book is that Waugh never explains the mystery; instead, he renders Charles Ryder's experience of it.
Almost as soon as he becomes the chum of Sebastian Flyte, Charles makes us feel his repulsion for the Flyte family religion and for its chief representative, Sebastian's mother, Lady Marchmain, whose attempts to bring stability to Sebastian's life are viewed as the insidious cause of the decline she wishes to prevent. I have always suspected Waugh of laying a trap for the unsuspecting reader, in that he so deliberately makes us identify with Sebastian and Charles, those free...
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SOURCE: "Vile Bodies: A Futurist Fantasy," in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 40, No. 3, Fall 1994, pp. 318-28.
[In the following essay, Allen contends that Waugh satirizes the principles of the Futurist movement in art and literature of the 1920s and 1930s in Vile Bodies.]
One of Evelyn Waugh's most perceptive critics, Robert Murray Davis, has commented that "like many writers more obviously committed to modernist experiment, Waugh took great care to guide his readers by means of external form" [Evelyn Waugh, Writer, 1981]. It is true that Waugh was not "obviously" committed to experiment, but close readings of his early novels show that such experiment is indeed present. Pastiche and quotation, two devices much employed in the modern period, play an especially important role in his work. But in spite of Waugh's rather free use of many of the techniques of modernism, critics have been reluctant to classify even his work of the twenties and thirties as modernist, and, though it seems unusually characteristic of its period, his fiction cannot be relegated to any one contemporary artistic movement. In his youth Waugh affected a pose of ultra-modernity, but it is impossible not to believe that one of the principal pleasures he took in this role was in its power to outrage his elders, for Waugh always leaves the reader with the impression that he faced the period he did so much to define...
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SOURCE: "Evelyn Waugh's Early Novels: The Limits of Fiction," in Papers on Language & Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics of Language and Literature, Vol. 30, No. 4, Fall 1994, pp. 373-86.
[In the following essay, Lynch contends that Waugh's lack of didacticism in his early novels points to his view of the limited ability of fiction to express permanent, meaningful ideas.]
Apart from his own willingness to classify himself as an entertainer, one of the major reasons for the general view of Evelyn Waugh's early novels as frivolous is that they betray little in the way of overt philosophical content. While it is true that the didactic novel has fallen into disfavor and we tire of the Rupert Birkins more easily than we used to, we still demand a message from fiction, and Waugh seems to deny us one. The problem raised here is one of subject matter. If Waugh's subject is merely the foibles of English society between the wars, then he is a sort of humorous chronicler of the period, and of limited interest to later generations, who will find him funny but will not perhaps understand allusions to the Oxford aesthetes. But English society is not Waugh's only subject. In his first six novels, in fact, he was writing to a considerable extent about fiction, particularly its limited ability either to imitate "reality" in the sense that conventional realistic and naturalistic narratives attempt to do,...
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SOURCE: "Reconsidering Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One," in Modern Age, Vol. 37, No. 2, Winter 1995, pp. 156-62.
[Ross is an American educator, literary critic, and writer. In the following essay, Ross claims that The Loved One is Waugh's only truly satiric novel and notes that Waugh displays in it his deft understanding of the American character.]
If we were to grade British authors of this century according to the degree of compassion manifest in their works, one novelist sure to flunk would be Evelyn Waugh. In recent years "compassion" has become a buzz word and it is precisely the overtones carried in its buzz that may account in part for Waugh's unsteady place on the literary stockmarket on this side of the Atlantic. Not only, as a writer, does Waugh lose points for his low compassion-count but also, as a person, he comes across as hardly tolerable: the image of him in the public mind leaves perhaps too much to be desired. As Steven Marcus sums it up, "Waugh has been variously characterized as nasty, hateful, snobbish, trivial, reactionary, vindictive, fawning, immature, pompous, and rude." All of which, Marcus feels, is "somehow beside the point." For it doesn't affect what is offered in novels like Decline and Fall (1928), or Vile Bodies (1930), or A Handful of Dust (1934), or Scoop (1938): what is on offer, according to Marcus, is a dazzling form of...
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SOURCE: "Gentlemen in Battle," in National Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 23, December 11, 1995, pp. 128, 130-31.
[Didion is a prominent American novelist, essayist, and screenplay writer. In the following, originally published in National Review in 1962, she reviews The End of the Battle, the final novel in Waugh's Men at War trilogy, noting what she considers Waugh's excellent depiction in the book of utter futility in the modern-post-World War II-world.]
Distinctively dolorous by nature, I have to date been saved from my own instincts mostly by the relentless interference of my acquaintances, one or two of whom seem to have perfect pitch for my absurdities, if not always for their own. I recall in particular one bitter morning in New York, my 23rd birthday, when I woke with intimations of mortality to find outside my door, attractively done up in a Henri Bendel box, the jacket of a Henry James novel painstakingly altered to read The Tragic M(o)use. It was accompanied by a gray plastic mouse with a red ribbon around its tail, and if I did not immediately stop fancying myself a kind of East End Avenue Ophelia, I began at least to entertain certain doubts.
Although this battle is still far from won, I sometimes have mixed feelings about the desirability of winning it at all: the only prize, after all, would be a sense of the absurd, the beginning of a kind of...
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Wölk, Gerhard. "Evelyn Waugh: A Supplementary Checklist of Criticism." Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies 25, No. 2 (Autumn 1991): 7-8.
Compiles significant criticism on Waugh published since 1989.
Wölk, Gerhard. "Evelyn Waugh: A Supplementary Checklist of Criticism." Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies 26, No. 2 (Autumn 1992): 5-6.
Compiles significant criticism on Waugh published since 1990.
Babiak, Peter R. "A Brief Philosophy of Stoneless Peaches." Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies 25, No. 3 (Winter 1991): 5.
Postulates that the image of the stoneless peach in Waugh's The Loved One is a metaphor for the tension between nature and culture.
Bittner, David. "Some Questions about Father Rothschild." Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies 27, No. 1 (Spring 1993): 4.
Reexamines Father Rothschild in Vile Bodies, noting possible satiric elements in Waugh's development of the character.
Lassner, Phyllis. "'Between the Gaps': Sex, Class and Anarchy in the British Comic Novel of World War II." In Look Who's Laughing: Gender and Comedy, pp. 205-17....
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